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Milkha Singh, India's flying Sikh, no more; dies of COVID-related complications at 91

The former sprinter, who represented India in the 1956 and 1964 Olympics, was admitted to the ICU ward of the hospital on June 3 due to falling oxygen levels.

Former Commonwealth Games medallist and Padma Shri awardee Milkha Singh Former Commonwealth Games medallist and Padma Shri awardee Milkha Singh

Former Commonwealth Games medallist and Padma Shri awardee Milkha Singh passed away on Friday due to COVID-19 related complications at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Hospital in Chandigarh. The former sprinter, who represented India in the 1956 and 1964 Olympics, was admitted to the ICU ward of the hospital on June 3 due to falling oxygen levels.

His condition became critical on Friday evening as he developed complications, comprising fever and falling oxygen saturation levels in the intensive care unit of the PGIMER Hospital. Notably, Singh's 85-year old wife former national volleyball captain Nirmal Kaur, also passed away due to COVID-19 five days ago. They are now survived by their golfer son Jeev Milkha Singh and three daughters-- Dr. Mona Singh, Aleeza Grover, and Sonia Sanwalka.

"It is with extreme sadness that we would like to inform you that Milkha Singh Ji passed away at 11:30 pm on the 18th of June 2021. He fought hard but God has his ways and it was perhaps true love and companionship that both our mother Nirmal ji and now Dad have passed away in a matter of 5 days," the statement issued by the family read.

PGIMER Hospital also issued a statement expressing condolences to the sprint legend. "...despite best of the efforts by a medical team, Milkha Singh ji could not be retrieved from his critical condition and after a brave fight, he left for his heavenly abode at 11:30 pm," the hospital said in its statement.

PGIMER Director Professor Jagat Ram said Milkha "will be remembered for his exceptional accomplishments on and off the field and his endearing personality," PTI reported.

As the news of Flying Sikh's death broke, Twitter was flooded with condolence messages. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Shah Rukh Khan, everyone mourned the loss of one of independent India's most colossal sporting icons.

Prime Minister Modi shared an image of himself with the sprinter and tweeted, "In the passing away of Shri Milkha Singh Ji, we have lost a colossal sportsperson, who captured the nation's imagination and had a special place in the hearts of countless Indians. His inspiring personality endeared himself to millions. Anguished by his passing away."

"I had spoken to Shri Milkha Singh Ji just a few days ago. Little did I know it would be our last conversation. Several budding athletes will derive strength from his life journey. My condolences to his family and many admirers all over the world," PM Modi added.


Mahindra Group chairperson Anand Mahindra also mourned the loss of the sporting icon. "How can my generation explain what Milkha Singh meant to us? He wasn't just an athlete. To a society still suffering the insecurities of post-colonialism he was a sign that we could be the best in the world. Thank you, Milkha Singhji, for giving us that confidence. Om Shanti."

Edited by Mehak Agarwal; with PTI inputs

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